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Four men injured in generator fire

HALSTAD, Minn. - Flaming oil shot from a generator engine, injuring four people Tuesday in the city utilities building here. Officials were investigating whether the city's emergency diesel generator exploded during routine testing about 11:30 a....

HALSTAD, Minn. - Flaming oil shot from a generator engine, injuring four people Tuesday in the city utilities building here.

Officials were investigating whether the city's emergency diesel generator exploded during routine testing about 11:30 a.m.

Whatever the cause, hot motor or lubricating oil shot out of the generator, caught fire and landed on three men, Mayor Glen Brookshire said.

City employees Tony Wolfe and Jim Suda were transferred to Regions Hospital Burn Center in St. Paul after first being taken to MeritCare Hospital in Fargo.

Regions Hospital listed Wolfe and Suda in good condition Tuesday night.

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The other two injured men - city employee Dave Meyer and Ed Solarski, an employee of Grand Forks, N.D.-based Minnkota Power - were treated and released from area hospitals Tuesday afternoon.

Wolfe, Suda and Solarski were conducting routine tests of the city's emergency diesel generator about 11:30 a.m., Brookshire said.

Meyer then rushed into the room and put out the fire, Brookshire said.

"He was right there on the scene. He deserves a lot of credit," Brookshire said.

Meyer received minor burns on his hands, said Jeremy Thornton, a Norman County sheriff's deputy.

Meyer said Tuesday night he heard an explosion and ran to help.

He said he didn't feel comfortable adding further comment at this time, but praised the efforts of all of the rescue crews who offered aid.

It was unclear Tuesday what caused the oil to catch fire.

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The only damage to the building appeared to be burn marks on the ceiling, Thornton said.

The generator was installed new in 1955 for emergency use when power to the city is cut off. It has seen only light duty, most recently during 1997 flooding, Brookshire said.

A replacement generator was brought in Tuesday from nearby Ada, he said.

Halstad residents continued to receive their power and water as usual Tuesday.

However, some of the generator oil landed on equipment that controls power to city wells, Brookshire said.

The equipment will need to be cleaned to prevent oil from damaging electronic components, he said.

It's possible, but unlikely, that the equipment will need to be shut down briefly during cleaning, Brookshire said.

If so, he said, city water supplies could be affected temporarily.

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"We'll have to take a close look at how much cleaning is needed," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530

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